Clear & Clean
For many families, the prospect of removing all the stuff from the house is the most daunting task of the transition. They are often paralyzed by the prospect of sorting through the huge accumulation of possessions built up over 50+ years and properly distributing it all. Operation Relo delivers comprehensive solutions to get the house empty so the family can move on. There are 6 methods to clear a house, and we do them all.
- Bequeath them. Giving assets to family or friends is often the best first choice. No one will value those assets more than a family member. As a rule, family will tell you they will come and pick it up, but they rarely do. We provide moving and shipping services in support of this option.
- Move them. Take the assets to the next home. We handle local and inter-state moves.
- Store them. You may want to keep the assets secured off site until there is a clear plan for who gets it next. There are a variety of options. Generally, you will pay more for storage facilities that are readily accessible – like self-storage. Warehouse storage is less expensive, but you may need to set up an appointment to have access. Climate controlled environments also are more expensive.
- Sell them. There are many ways to do this. We discuss this rather extensively in the Selling Used Possessions section.
- Donate them. We often take items to charities, but we also appeal directly to families in need. There are a lot of folks who have fallen on tough times. We also work with families just getting started who appreciate a good value.
- Dispose of them. We do our best to keep things out of the landfill, but that’s part of the process as well. Certain items – like paints, electronics, and recyclables – need special handling.
There is no optimal one-size-fits-all strategy for dealing with this issue. Our plans are tailored for your possessions and family situation.
When You're Selling the House
When homes are being sold, they should be emptied. The new owner wants to start afresh with their own decorating and all the stuff they had in their previous home. Sometimes a home may show better with stylish furniture in it. In those cases, you should use a professional stager, who also prefers to start with an empty house.
We come to the house and remove all the contents using some combination of the six methods. When we develop a disposition plan together, keep in mind that the average four-bedroom home that has been lived in 30 years or more has accumulated about 8,000 pounds of stuff. That’s 4 tons. It’s packed into closets, basements, attics, garages, and sheds. Often old building materials are literally stuffed in the rafters.
The first cut is to give valued items to friends and family. In a typical house, that may get you down to 7,500 pounds, and the job has barely begun.
The most efficient way to get rid of the next 7,500 pounds is a clean out, when our crews simply throw everything out, but most people don’t want to do that. They’d like to go through the house, looking for items that may be of special value to the family for sentimental reasons, or maybe even that hidden treasure that you see on Antique Road Show.
In those circumstances we conduct a discovery phase. During discovery, many families set aside certain items for special treatment. It’s often hard to keep track of all those items when overlapping jobs are going on. Family members may countermand decisions made earlier. The items may be sold or disposed of. We do our best to keep track of all this, and we always ask for clear identification of what is to be set aside, with an attention-grabbing label or ribbon on the item. Whether those items are going to the new place, a grandchild, or whatever, it’s best to get them out of the house quickly.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen, and we are sometimes later asked us to find an item that was unlabeled. This usually is not possible, but we try.
Defining the tasks. There are also multiple definitions of what clearing “everything in the house” means. For some, leaving household cleaning products, soap and toilet paper is expected. Other times, those items are to be removed. We should have discussions about whether to keep or leave window coverings. We like to write this down.
Charities. For items that can’t be sold, we try to give items to charities wherever possible, but there is so much used furniture out there, that they are getting picky too. For example, charities generally won’t take furniture they consider unmarketable, like a dresser with missing nobs or a table with a bad scratch. For smaller items, they often require that it all be bagged or boxed up and moved to the edge of the garage. It requires work to give things to charity.
Cleaning crews come in at the end to finish the job. We break out the costs of cleaning crews from clean-outs because oftentimes the owner doesn’t feel they need it, or they may want to do it themselves. Our cleansing crews scour the cabinets and appliances. They scrub the toilets, sweep the hardwood, vacuum the carpets, wash off the walls, and cart out the remaining small trash items. There are a variety of ways to handle soiled carpets and damaged hardwood. When we’re done the house is clean and smelling fresh.
Hoarder houses. People living alone for longer periods of time often compulsively acquire things of limited or no value. We’ve seen homes with collections of old cereal boxes and a dozen sewing machines. In some cases, there is so much stuff, we have to make a path to get through the rooms.
Homes that have been vacant for more than a few months often have animals living in them, as well as the remains of the dead ones. These critters pose a variety of health risks requiring special handling. Also, the plumbing, electrical and other systems degrade when unused. A house is a “living” thing interacting that may require refurbishment to make it feel inhabitable. We often can tell how long a house has been empty just by walking through it.
Heavy/large items including pianos, old CRT (cathode ray tube) televisions, hot tubs, pool tables, etc. can be very difficult to remove. We have also encountered exceptionally large furniture pieces where the room was actually built around the piece, and they physically cannot be removed without removing doorways or cutting apart the piece.
Difficult access carries a surcharge. If we can’t pull our trucks close to the house and/or we must negotiate large items through winding staircases, the job will take longer requiring more people to get the job done.
Home workshops generate large amounts of dust and grime that accumulates throughout the house and in the duct work. The cleaning challenge is not just about the workshop. Every room will take more time to clean unless the dust was isolated to a remote location like a shed or barn.
Mold grows in dark, moist areas. It’s a health risk that new owners and building inspectors want to be addressed. We have special procedures for removing the mold with products designed for that purpose and then apply an anti-bacterial treatment to prevent future growth. Our crews require masks and special clothing to work in that environment.
It’s an involved process. Many people start out thinking they can do a cleanout on their own and are surprised at how much effort it takes to actually complete the task. We are sometimes called in after the family has started on the work, only to realize they have taken on more than they care to complete. That’s why you hire us. We make problems go away fast.